If someone physically harms themselves, it is likely that the majority of people will know enough basic first aid to help them until medical help arrives. However, would you be ‘in the know’ on how to deal with someone who is having a mental health crisis?
Nearly half (45%) of all Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage of their life. Despite this, people living with mental illness will often experience stigma and discrimination from friends, family, employers and the community as a whole. Often, the disadvantages and isolation they feel can be more disabling than the mental illness itself.
Mental health first-aid courses were first introduced by Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm in Canberra in the year 2000. The courses have been designed to give people the knowledge about how to help someone close to them in need.
Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFA) now trains instructors to run the first-aid courses around the country, often in conjunction with organisations such as TAFE or the Red Cross.
Mental Health is a difficult topic and there is a need to break down stigma and provide support to sufferers.
Mental Health First Aid Australia action plan:
1. Approach, assess and assist with any crisis
2. Listen and communicate non-judgemental
3. Give support and information
4. Encourage appropriate professional help
5. Encourage other supports
Many organizations require someone within the workforce to have a first-aid certificate, and the idea is that this should be the case for mental health first aid as well.
The course helps people work out what to say, what to do, and how to refer the person on to more specialised support if that's what the person wants. The courses do not serve to train people to become medical ‘experts’ in the field of mental health, rather it ensures that people just know how to broach the subject with someone and how to refer them on. It also teaches individuals to stay calm, and teaches them what to say and when to say it.
MHCTas offers free courses to people who are in caring roles supporting people with mental health issues to help get them up to speed with the best ways to help someone.
NOTE: If you are dealing with depression or anxiety, grief or relationship breakdown, there are many specialised mental health helplines and online resources to help you get through difficult times.
Get help today by talking to one of the following support services:
SANE Australia Helpline – call 1800 18 7263 for information about mental illness, treatments and support for you and your carer.
Mensline Australia – call 1300 78 99 78 for telephone support, information and referrals for men dealing with relationship issues, or visit their website.
Beyondblue - call 1300 22 4636 for telephone support, information and resources for people dealing with depression or anxiety, or visit their website.
Carers Australia – call 1800 242 636 to find out about short-term counselling and support services for carers and their families in Victoria.